I Don't Have a Duty to Vote

The only people who think I do are those with something to lose.

Few would contend that this election is the most divisive in recent history. Never in my young life have I seen two candidates more radioactive to the opposing party. And never have I seen the rhetoric stronger that this election will spell certain doom for the country if the wrong person is chosen.

Everyone is scared. With such entrenched ideologies, there is little hope of swaying either candidate's supporters. So the war for hearts and minds is taking place among the undecided's--the skeptics and cynics such as myself who find support of either candidate at best dubious and wrought with conflict.

Even suggesting a non-vote on Facebook is bound to unleash hellfire. "There is so much at stake", they say. Or, "a non-vote is just a vote for Trump or Clinton anyway".

But it is entirely fallacious to equate a non-vote with a vote unless, of course, you assume that a non-vote would've been a vote for your favored candidate, not the opponent. And it only goes to demonstrate that we don't have a duty to vote.

No one will tell that you have duty to vote, period. They will tell you that you have a duty to vote... for the person they want to be president. The non-vote is a vote argument operates on that premise. The unfavorable outcome, more often than not, is that their candidate won't be elected. 

For example, in a recent Fox News op-ed. evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress attempted to argue that not voting is not an option for Christians. His reasons were 1) voting is a God-given privilege and responsibility, 2) voting is a primary way for Christians to stop evil, 3) voting is about endorsing policies, not personalities.

His first point is typical circular reasoning: because we can vote, we have to vote. By the second point, he reveals his motive: Trump will appoint pro-life justices (though he never defends stopping evil as a moral imperative). Finally, his third point is a tepid call for grace towards imperfect, human leaders which manages to ignore the strict standards Scripture places on leadership.

Fox may have titled Jeffress' article "Why Christians Must Vote in this Election", but the honest title is "Why Christians Must Vote for Trump in this Election".

Anyone who tries to convince you that you have to vote is only doing so because they want to take that vote from you. They're not interested in you adding your voice or helping you be a responsible citizen; they're trying to ensure a win because they have something to lose.

For Americans, winning a policy battle is understandable. Their hope and faith rests solely in this country as does their concept of the future and quality of life. Conversely, Christians quarreling over the public policy of a temporal nation that is not our home nor the seat of our allegiance should be surprising.

However, American Christians have long forgotten their citizenship choosing instead to place their trust in the political process rather than the power of God. They'll contend that he uses the nations to accomplish his own purposes, thus, we're obligated to use our vote to support his will. But this both diminishes God's sovereignty and misunderstands the church's role in the world.

God doesn't need your vote. For thousands of years--long before representative governments existed--he was fully capable of leading the nations. It is not the church's job to make sure that the nations get in line and follow orders. Our job is to bear witness to the gospel in our communities by loving others.

Most Christians believe in the priority of the gospel, but most Christians also believe that the gospel will suffer under the wrong administration. Whether it's a loss of religious freedom or a racist foreign policy, they fear that disaster threatens our witness as Christians.

When Jesus entrusted his disciples with the good news, he did so in a time when national support was nonexistent. In fact, Jesus and his followers became the scapegoat for a corrupt government whose only interest was quelling insurrection.

Yet today, we can't fathom how the church could survive in such tyranny. We can't seem to imagine our faith apart from the privileges we have to worship freely and thrive economically. Worse still, we don't know what our witness is without the state.

The sad truth is many Christians don't know who they are without their party affiliation. And the reason they're so worried about non-voters is because they're afraid that this election will erase their identity and influence. Their faith is so intertwined with politics that they can't even express what loving others means without addressing abortion, marriage equality, or social justice.

Thankfully, Jesus never called us to be lawyers or policy makers. He called fishermen to be preachers and tax collectors to be martyrs. Christians are everyday people doing everyday things for the good of the kingdom.

We don't need Roe v. Wade repealed to adopt the child of a pregnant teenager. We don't need the government to ban stop and frisk to testify on behalf of our black brothers and sisters. Nothing can restrain our witness because our witness is empowered by the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the state.

I don't have a duty to vote, nor do I care to exercise one, because I have nothing to lose in this election. Neither a Trump or Clinton presidency affects my ability to live out my faith nor does it affect yours.

If you have something to lose, it's because you've put your faith in something that can be lost. Perhaps you're ok with depending on an election cycle, but I'd rather not have a vote then let it dictate my faith.

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